CAN YOU STILL SELL AS IS? CPA V THE VOETSTOOTS CLAUSE

Both sellers and buyers (of anything – houses, cars, you name it) need to understand how the CPA (Consumer Protection Act) has impacted on the very common “voetstoots” (“as is”) clause.Firstly, what’s the difference between “patent” and “latent” defects?Before we get into the meat of this question, let’s understand two important terms –

  • “Patent defects” are those that can be easily identified on inspecting the goods – like a broken door, damaged tiles, cracked mirror or windscreen, and so on.
  • “Latent defects” on the other hand are hidden or non-obvious. They “would not have been visible or discoverable upon inspection by the ordinary purchaser”. Think for example of seasonal roof leaks, broken underground drains, leaking geysers and the like.

Exactly what is a voetstoots clause?

A general rule in our law is that when you sell something, you give the buyer an “implied warranty” against defects. That can be disastrous for the seller as it allows the buyer, on finding a defect, to claim a price reduction (or sometimes cancellation of the whole sale).

Hence the very common voetstoots or “as is” clause. In effect as seller you are telling the buyer “you agree to take the goods as they are, the risk of defects is on your shoulders, and I give no guarantees”. Note however that a seller cannot always hide behind such a clause – if he/she is aware of a latent defect and deliberately conceals it with the intention to defraud the buyer, all voetstoots protection falls away.

And then along came the CPA

The Consumer Protection Act has been a game changer when it comes to consumer rights. In a nutshell, as a buyer you are entitled to receive goods that are of good quality, “reasonably suitable” for the purposes for which they are generally intended, defect-free, durable and safe.

If anything you buy fails, or turns out to be defective or unsafe –

  •  You can return the goods to the supplier – without penalty, and at the supplier’s risk and expense – within 6 months of delivery, and
  •  You can require the supplier to give you a full refund, or to replace the goods, or to repair them. The choice is yours; the supplier cannot dictate your options to you.

But does the CPA apply to all sales?

Here’s the rub for buyers – the CPA applies only when the seller is selling “in the ordinary course of business”, so generally “private sales” will fall outside its ambit.

In other words, if you buy a movable like a car from a trader or dealer, the CPA applies and overrides the voetstoots clause. But if you buy from a private seller, the voetstoots clause applies and you have no CPA protection.

What about property sales?

Developers, builders, investors and the like are clearly bound by the CPA.  But for private sellers the position is less clear. Although it seems very likely that once-off private sales of residential property don’t fall under the CPA, there is some suggestion that we won’t be 100% sure on that until either our courts rule definitively on it, or the CPA is amended to provide clarity. On the “better safe than sorry” principle, don’t take any chances – cover yourself as below.

Practical advice for sellers

Cover yourself by disclosing any defects you know of to the buyer, and record any such disclosure/s in a written and signed annexure to the deed of sale. A buyer cannot complain if you have informed him/her of the condition of the goods and they have been bought on that basis.

Then if you are selling in the “ordinary course” of your business, be very aware that the CPA applies to you. Understand its very strict requirements (what is said above is of necessity only a brief overview) and the risks of not complying.

If on the other hand you are a “private seller”, make sure you are covered by a properly-drawn “voetstoots” clause. On the off-chance its validity is challenged, you can avoid later disputes with a “belt-and-braces” approach – have the goods checked out by an independent expert (like a home inspection service when selling a house) and have your lawyer incorporate that into the sale agreement.

Practical advice for buyers

Don’t risk having to fight in court over whether or not the CPA applies to your purchase, and over whether or not any voestoots clause is valid. Be warned that depriving a private seller of the protection of a voetstoots clause is never going to be easy, particularly since you will need to prove that the seller intended to defraud you by concealing a defect.

Rather be sure of the condition of the goods before you buy. If the seller hasn’t provided you with an expert report as above, commission one yourself.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE BASICS OF CREATING A LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

B3Who your property is passed on to depends on whether you have a valid will or not. If you do have a valid will, then your property will be divided according to your wishes stated therein. If you die without a will (called “intestate”), then your property will be divided amongst your immediate family according to the laws of intestate succession.

How can I create a Will?

If you are older than 16, you have the right to create a will, to state who you would want your property to go to when you die. In order for your will to be valid, it needs to be compiled in the proper way.

  1. According to the law, you have to be mentally competent when you compile your will; this means that you must understand the consequences of creating a will and that you must also be in a reasonable state of mind when you do so.
  2. You must make sure that your will is in writing in order for it to be valid.
  3. Two people older than 14 years must witness the creating of your will (these witnesses cannot be beneficiaries).
  4. You have to initialise every page of the will and then sign the last page. The witnesses must also initialise and sign the will.
  5. You can, and should, approach a lawyer to help you draw up your will to avoid creating an invalid will.

You can appoint an executor in your will to divide your property amongst your loved ones. An executor is the person who will make sure that your property is divided according to your wishes, as set out in your will, and he/she will also settle your outstanding debts. If you don’t choose an executor yourself, then the court will appoint someone, which is usually a family member.

What are the risks of not having a Will?

If you don’t have a valid will when you die, your property will be divided according to the rules set out by the law. These rules state that a married person’s property will be divided equally amongst their spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then your property will be divided between other family members. If you also don’t have any blood relatives, then the property will be given to the government. You might think that you do not need a will, as your family will divide your possessions amongst each other, but you must keep in mind that delays in dealing with your estate could affect your family negatively; they might be relying on their inheritance for an income.

  • The beneficiaries of your estate will be determined according to the laws of intestate succession, if you die without a will.
  • This law determines the distribution of your assets to your closest blood relatives, meaning that your assets may be sold or split up against your wishes.
  • Some of your assets could be given to someone in your family that you did not intent to benefit from your estate.
  • Without a will, you cannot leave a specific item to a specific family member or friend.
  • If you live with someone but are not married to them, the law will not necessarily recognise him/her as a beneficiary of your estate, unless you have left a will naming them as a beneficiary.

References:

  • Western Cape Government. (2017). Making a Will. [online] Available at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/making-will [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].
  • Momentum.co.za. (2017). Drafting a will and setting up a trust. [online] Available at: https://www.momentum.co.za/wps/wcm/connect/momV1/f150ba2e-3724-4b42-9265-332106cb6b83/drafting+a+will_E+vs+2+%2807032013%29%5B1%5D.pdf?MOD=AJPERES [Accessed 22 Jun. 2017].
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

SARS TO INTENSIFY ACTION AGAINST TAX OFFENDERS

B4Despite the fact that SARS has upheld their philosophy of education, service, and thereafter enforcement, they have noticed an increase in taxpayers not submitting their tax returns by the stipulated deadlines, and not settling their outstanding debt with SARS. This is not limited to the current tax year but includes substantial non-compliance across previous tax years.

It is for this reason that from October 2017 SARS will intensify criminal proceedings against tax offenders. Failure to submit the return(s) within the said period could result in:

  • Administrative penalties being imposed on a monthly basis per outstanding return.
  • Criminal prosecution resulting in imprisonment or a fine for each day that such default continues.

Types of tax

SARS has reminded all taxpayers that, according to the Tax Administration Act No. 28 of 2011, it is a criminal offence not to submit a tax return for any of the tax types they are registered. These tax types are:

  • Personal Income Tax (PIT)
  • Corporate Income Tax (CIT)
  • Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
  • Value Added Tax (VAT)

It is also important to note that should any return result in a tax debt it must be paid before the relevant due date to avoid any interest for late payment and legal action. To avoid any penalties, interest, prosecutions as well as imprisonment, taxpayers are urged to rectify their compliance by submitting any outstanding returns as soon as possible. Please contact your tax advisor for assistance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

HOW TO APPLY FOR SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE

B2Maintenance is the obligation to provide another person, for example a minor, with housing, food, clothing, education and medical care, or with the means that are necessary for providing the person with these essentials. This legal duty to maintain is called ‘the duty to maintain’ or ‘the duty to support’.

The duty to maintain is based on blood relationship, adoption, or the fact that the parties are married to each other.

An application for maintenance can be made against a defendant (person who must pay maintenance) at any Maintenance Court (“court”) in the district where the complainant (person who applies for maintenance) or the child, on whose behalf maintenance is claimed, resides or works.

The parents, guardians and/or caregivers of a child can apply for maintenance on behalf of such a child.

What should a person take to court when applying for maintenance?

  • Identity document of the complainant.
  • Complainant’s contact details, such as telephone numbers and home and work addresses.
  • If maintenance for a child is claimed, the birth certificate of that child.
  • If maintenance for the spouse is claimed, the marriage certificate or divorce order where maintenance order was granted.
  • A full list of expenses and any proof of same, such as receipts.
  • The complainant’s payslip and proof of any other income.
  • As much detail as possible regarding the defendant, such as telephone numbers, home and work addresses, list of known income and expenses, and so on.

What happens after the application has been made?

  • The maintenance officer will inform the defendant of the application and will hold an informal enquiry with the complainant and defendant being present.
  • The defendant must take any proof of his/her income and expenses to the informal enquiry.
  • The purpose of the informal enquiry is to assist the complainant and the defendant in reaching a settlement.
  • If a settlement is reached, an agreement will be entered into between the complainant and the defendant, which will be made an order of court.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, the maintenance officer will place the matter before court for a formal enquiry to be held.
  • The court will consider the facts and evidence of the claim and decide, by way of a maintenance order, whether maintenance should be payable and the amount of such maintenance.
  • The complainant and the defendant must both be present at the informal and formal enquiry, and will be allowed to have legal representation.
  • If the defendant fails to appear at the formal enquiry in court, an order may be given in his/her absence.
  • It will not be necessary for the complainant and/or defendant to appear in court if they consent in writing to the maintenance order being granted.

Reference

  • Justice.co.za
  • Legalwise.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MY PROPERTY HAS BEEN HIJACKED

B1As an owner of a building, trying to evict the hijackers and their tenants can often be without success.

Hijacked buildings are when the legal owner is deprived of their property, land and possessions by the slumlords. The slumlords impose themselves as the rightful owners, collecting rent and acting as body corporates of the hijacked building. The issue of buildings being occupied without the legal owner’s consent has become a common method for slumlords to generate quick profit. A common case with residential flats and apartments, the value of the building as well as the amenities around it depreciates due to the unkempt nature the building becomes.

Because the legal owners are registered at the municipality as being responsible for bills, taxes and utilities, slumlords have no obligation to meet these payment deadlines as they are not identified as the owners and the owners then obtain large amounts owing to the municipality. Should they have requested for the water and electricity be cut off as a means to not accumulating debt, the property’s occupants would likely become violent, destroying what is left of the building’s conditions.

When the rightful owners approach the illegal owners and occupiers of the property, they are violently threatened, making them unable or fearful to return to claim their property. Because everyone has the right to property and housing, their right cannot be imposed on, even in cases of illegal occupation. Seeking legal advice ensures that you are not breaking the law as the rightful owner. An investigation into locating the slumlords is established, as well as the determination of whether the complainant is the rightful owner of the hijacked property. This opportunity also restores the rights of people who are paying exploitive amounts of rent and ensures that their access to basic needs is met. To restore the condition of the building, the occupiers must be offered alternative accommodation and an order must be granted by the court before an eviction can be conducted. Breach of the said order warrants for the arrest of the unrelenting occupier.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)